Bills' 2023 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss
The Buffalo Bills have become one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. The presence of dual-threat quarterback Josh Allen, skill players like Stefon Diggs and an aggressive talent-laden defense has made Buffalo a must-watch on both sides of the ball.
However, there's a difference between being a "fun" team and a championship squad. The Bills reached the postseason in each of the past four seasons but failed to appear in the Super Bowl. Buffalo has been a team with few obvious flaws but one that simply couldn't get over the proverbial hump.
With a 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals presenting a second straight divisional round exit, it's time once again for Buffalo to focus on reloading for next season.
Now that the Bills are out of the playoffs, their attention must shift to retaining key players, addressing the few needs they have and navigating the 2023 draft. They can potentially build a stronger roster and a title contender for next season, but it's going to take work.
Here, we'll examine Buffalo's impending free agents, potential free-agent targets and draft needs heading into the offseason.
Unrestricted Free Agents
G Ike Boettger
WR Jamison Crowder
LB Tremaine Edmunds
G Bobby Hart
S Jaquan Johnson
RB Taiwan Jones
QB Case Keenum
LB A.J. Klein
WR Jake Kumerow
DE Shaq Lawson
S Dean Marlowe
P Sam Martin
LB Tyler Matakevich
OT Justin Murray
DE Jordan Phillips
S Jordan Poyer
OT David Quessenberry
G Rodger Saffold
RB Devin Singletary
TE Tommy Sweeney
G Greg Van Roten
Restricted/Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
LB Tyrel Dodson
CB Dane Jackson
CB Cam Lewis
Free agency is the biggest obstacle between Buffalo and another run in 2023. The Bills could potentially lose several starters and key role players on the open market this offseason.
Defensively, starting safety Jordan Poyer, starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and defensive end Shaq Lawson headline the list of impending free agents. While Lawson wasn't a full-time starter in 2022, he was a valuable rotational piece.
Lawson finished the regular season with 30 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback pressures.
Offensively, the Bills have to worry about losing starting left guard Rodger Saffold and valuable backups David Quessenberry, Bobby Hart, Ike Boettger and Greg Van Roten. Starting running back Devin Singletary is set to hit the open market as well.
Quarterback Case Keenum saw the field sparingly in 2022, but he remains one of the better backups in the NFL. Allen has proved himself to be a durable quarterback, but it's always smart to have a reliable Plan B in place at the game's most important position.
Buffalo could also lose punter Sam Martin, who ranked a respectable 14th in yards per punt this season.
The problem rests with Buffalo's cap space, or lack thereof. The Bills are projected to be $5.5 million over the salary cap, which will make retaining and adding players quite difficult.
The Bills are short on viable cap-cut candidates, so general manager Brandon Beane may have to look at restructuring a few contracts to clear space. One cut candidate is running back and returner Nyheim Hines, who was acquired during the season in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts.
Hines is under contract through 2024 and is set to carry a $4.8 million cap hit in 2023. However, he has no guarantees left on his deal, and the Bills could save the full $4.8 million by releasing him.
Potential Free-Agent/Trade Targets
Given Buffalo's cap situation, we're unlikely to see the Bills go big-name hunting on the open market this offseason. They added pass-rusher Von Miller last offseason, but top players like defensive tackle Daron Payne and cornerback James Bradberry are probably off the table for 2023.
Expect Buffalo to largely look to re-sign their own and evaluate budget options in the second and third waves of free agency.
If, however, the Bills are able to clear significant cap space, a couple of players stand out as logical targets.
If Poyer departs in free agency, the Bills could take a look at snagging Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III. He played this last season on the franchise tag and is likely out after the Bengals used a first-round pick on Daxton Hill.
It would also make sense to target a top-tier tight end to pair with Dawson Knox. A few good ones will be available, including the Dallas Cowboys' Dalton Schultz, the Miami Dolphins' Mike Gesicki and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Evan Engram.
Buffalo might also look to execute a trade or two if the right players become available. One name to consider is Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers. Singletary could depart, and the Bills did monitor Christian McCaffrey before he was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers.
Much like McCaffrey, Jones is a tremendous dual-threat running back. The Packers are set to be $14.5 million over the cap and could save $10.4 million by moving Jones. Naturally, this is a deal that would only make sense if the Bills restructure Jones' contract and reduce his $8.1 million base salary.
While the Bills may not be particularly active in free agency, they can add significant contributions through the 2023 draft. Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have mostly done a good job of uncovering talent on draft weekend.
Key players like Allen, Knox, Singletary, Ed Oliver, Tre'Davious White, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and James Cook were all drafted by the current regime. This year, Buffalo will have selections in each of the first four rounds.
Depending on how opening night unfolds, the Bills may have a crack at a quality interior lineman at the bottom of Round 1. The Bills may bring Saffold back, but he'll turn 35 in June and going younger/cheaper at guard would be logical.
Florida interior lineman O'Cyrus Torrence, the 23rd-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's latest draft board, would be a sensible target for Buffalo in the first round.
"Torrence has starter-level size, play strength and power, with the right demeanor to be a potential impact starter at guard in most schemes," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "Ideally, he would plug into a run and play-action focused offense that incorporates a healthy mix of gap concepts to suit what he does best and maximize his physical traits and skill set."
Prospects like Baylor defensive lineman Siaki Ika and Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders could also make sense for Buffalo early.
If the Bills do decide to add another pass-catching tight end to the lineup, they'll have options. Georgia's Darnell Washington, Utah's Dalton Kincaid and Sam LaPorta of Iowa are each ranked between No. 32 and No. 50 on the B/R board.
In the middle rounds of the draft, prospects like USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, LSU safety Jay Ward, Florida edge-rusher Brenton Cox Jr., Syracuse running back Sean Tucker, Georgia lineman Sedrick Van Pran, Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, Mississippi lineman Nick Broeker and Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson are all worth tracking.
It also won't be a surprise to see Buffalo draft a developmental quarterback in the latter rounds if Keenum departs. The Bills obviously won't target a quarterback early, but a player like Brigham Young's Jaren Hall or Tennessee's Hendon Hooker could make sense late on Day 3.